By Francis Turretin in Institutes of Elenctic Theology

What is sanctification and how is it distinguished from justification, yet inseparable from it?

I. As Christ was made to us of God righteousness and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30)—not dividedly, but conjointly; not confusedly, but distinctly—so the benefit of sanctification immediately follows justification as inseparably connected with it, but yet really distinct from it.

Homonyms of sanctification.

II. The word “sanctification” is not used here broadly for any separation from common use and consecration to a sacred use, as it is often taken in Scripture as to sacred things (made either by institution, such as the sanctification of the seventh day; or by the relation of sign, such as the sanctification of the elements in the sacraments; or by manifestation, as God is said to be sanctified by men [1 Pet. 3:15]); or for federal sanctity by external calling, as Israel is said to be holiness unto the Lord (Jer. 2:3). Rather, it is used strictly for a real and internal renovation of man by which God delivers the man planted in Christ by faith and justified (by the ministry of the word and the efficacy of the Spirit) more and more from his native depravity and transforms him into his own image. Thus with separation from the world and sin and consecration to the service of God, it implies a renovation of his nature.

III. But because this real change of man is made by various degrees, either by efficacious calling (which carries with it the donation of faith and of repentance by faith and a translation from a state of sin to a state of grace); or by regeneration (which bespeaks a renovation of the corrupt nature); or by the infusion and practice of holiness, hence sanctification is now extended widely to the whole state of the believer and embraces also calling itself. In this sense, Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, often designates believers by “those who are sanctified” (tous hagiazomenous, Heb. 2:11; 10:14). It is also taken more strictly and properly for renovation after the image of God. This follows justification and is begun here in this life by regeneration and promoted by the exercise of holiness and of good works, until it shall be consummated in the other by glory. In this sense, it is now taken passively, inasmuch as it is wrought by God in us; then actively, inasmuch as it ought to be done by us, God performing this work in us and by us.

Sanctification does not consist in a change of morals alone.

IV. However, this does not consist in a correction of life and morals alone (as the Socinians maintain, who, denying original corruption and whatever taint and depravity is in us, say it has been contracted by frequent acts of sin and by a certain habit of sinning, and contend that regeneration and sanctification are nothing else than “a change of a bad habit and of life, and reformation according to the doctrine of Christ;” cf. Socinus, lib. de Bapt.+ and Smalcius, De Christo vero et Naturali Dei Filio 2 [1616], pp. 13–18). Rather it consists in a change and renovation of the nature itself (corrupted by original sin) by which depraved qualities and habits are cast out and good ones infused so that the man desists from evil acts and strives for good.

V. The reasons are: (1) the Scripture extends sanctification not only to acts, but to the renovation of the nature itself (1 Thess. 5:23). Paul prays for the Thessalonians “the sanctification of their whole spirit and soul and body”; by “spirit,” he means the higher part of the soul and by “soul,” the lower, which the Scripture elsewhere denotes by a renovation of the mind and will (Eph. 4:22–24) and of the sensual appetite (Tit. 3:5; Gal. 5:24).

VI. (2) It is expressed elsewhere by “the giving of a heart,” “creation,” “generation,” “resurrection,” “putting on the new man.” These phrases demand not only the correction of life and of acts, but a renovation of the whole nature. (3) This sanctification ought to be common to infants no less than to adults, so that they can enter into the kingdom of God (in whom however a change of acts does not take place). (4) As the corruption of sin infects the whole nature (not only as to acts, but also as to habits), so sanctification ought to include a reformation of the whole nature, habitual as well as actual.

VII. An habitual change in qualities (by which we are made new creatures) differs from an actual change in life and morals (by which we are demonstrated to be such). God makes us first new creatures by regeneration; then we show that we are regenerated by our new obedience (as these acts are distinguished in Eph. 2:10; Ezk. 36:26; Jer. 32:39). In the former manner, we are said to be new creatures a priori; in the latter a posteriori.

VIII. The actual laying aside of vices and the correction of life and morals follow regeneration, as its proper effects (Gal. 5:22, 23; Col. 3:5). But regeneration itself is not properly such a deposition, but its cause (which consists in a renovation of the corrupt nature and restoration to the image of God).

Sanctification is distinguished from justification.

IX. However, this sanctification must be carefully distinguished from justification because the conforming of them gave rise to the principal errors of the Romanists on the doctrine of justification, as we have already seen. For although they agree in their author (God), in the meritorious cause (to wit, the righteousness of Christ, which purchased for us both these benefits, when he came with water and blood, 1 Jn. 5:6), in the general design (God’s glory and our salvation), in the instrumental cause (to wit, faith by the reception of the one and by the production of the other), it is certain that in many respects they differ, as Scripture has frequently distinguished these benefits (1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Tit. 3:5; Rev. 22:11). Nor could Paul so often have denied that we are justified by works if justification is the same as sanctification; nor could it with any show of justice have been objected to him that his doctrine relaxed the desire for holiness, if “to justify” is the same as “to sanctify.”

X. Therefore, they differ in many ways: (1) as to their object. Justification is concerned with the guilt of sin; sanctification with its pollution. (2) As to their form. The former consists in the judicial and forensic act of remission of sin and imputation of righteousness; the latter in the physical and moral act of the infusion of righteousness and internal renovation. (3) As to the recipient subject. To the former, man holds himself objectively on the part of God acquitting; to the latter, on the part of God renewing subjectively. (4) As to degrees. Justification is given in this life fully because we are plainly reconciled to God, so that being justified by faith we have peace with God (nor is there any condemnation to believers); but sanctification is indeed begun in this life, but is perfected only in the other. That takes place at once; this, however, by degrees and successively. (5) As to order. That is prior at least in the order of nature because God sanctifies those only who are reconciled and justified by faith; this, however, follows.

XI. Although Paul does not make express mention of sanctification in the chain of salvation, it does not follow that it is included in the word justification, as if it were identical with it. It is far more fitly included either under calling (which is the beginning of sanctification) or, what we think is truer, under glorification (which is its consummation and complement—as sanctification is the beginning of glory). Hence it is frequently designated by the word “glory” (Rom. 3:23; 2 Cor. 3:18).

XII. Although by sanctification we are made righteous habitually, still we are not made righteous imputatively or rather justified; nor can the etymology prove this, as we have seen before.

XIII. If sanctification purges us from all sin, this must be understood only as to the pollution inhering in us and not as to the guilt adhering before God and making us liable to his judgment.

XIV. Although sanctification depends upon the same cause as justification (to wit, the blood and death of Christ), they ought not be the same on that account. The cause does not produce it in the same manner. For it is related materially to justification, inasmuch as it is the material and foundation of our justification drawing that immediately after itself; but with respect to sanctification, only efficiently and mediately, inasmuch as it is the external impelling cause by which God is moved to give unto us the Holy Spirit, the author of sanctification. Thus in baptism each benefit is sealed to us, but each according to its own fashion (schesin). There we put on Christ as righteousness and sanctification (Gal. 3:27): righteousness, which takes away the guilt of sin and covers; sanctification, which every day removes and washes away that pollution. The blood of Christ (of which the water is the symbol) has a twofold power—to purge the guilt before God (inasmuch as it is a ransom [lytron] or price of redemption) and to purge the pollution in us (inasmuch as it is a bath or laver [loutron] of sanctification by the Spirit).

Sanctification is not to be separated from justification.

XV. Although we think that these two benefits should be distinguished and never confounded, still they are so connected from the order of God and the nature of the thing that they should never be torn asunder. This is clearly evident even from this—that they are often set forth in one and the same word as when they are designated by the words “cleansing” and “purging” and “taking away,” not only in different places, but also in the same context (as Jn. 1:29, when “the Lamb of God” is said “to take away the sin of the world,” i.e., both by taking away its guilt and punishment by the merit of his blood and by taking away its pollution and taint by the efficacy of the Spirit; and in Rev. 1:5, Christ is said “to wash us from our sins,” both as to justification and as to sanctification; in which sense “the robes of believers” are said “to have been made white in the blood of Christ” [Rev. 7:14] because having been shed upon the cross it produced remission of sins, which was accomplished under the law by the shedding of blood, and because being sprinkled upon the heart it purges the conscience from the dead works of sin).

The truth of this connection proved: (1) on the part of God.

XVI. Now the necessity and truth of this connection is gathered on the part of God justifying, of Christ redeeming, of the Spirit regenerating and of justification and the faith by which we are justified. (1) God joined these two benefits in the covenant of grace, since he promises that he will not remember our sins and that he will write his law in our hearts (Jer. 31:33, 34). Nor does the nature of God suffer this to be done otherwise. For since by justification we have a right to life (nor can anyone be admitted to communion with God without sanctification), it is necessary that he whom God justifies is also sanctified by him so as to be made fit for the possession of glory. Nay, he does not take away guilt by justification except to renew his own image in us by sanctification because holiness is the end of the covenant and of all its blessings (Lk. 1:68–75; Eph. 1:4).

2. On the part of Christ.

XVII. (2) Christ sustains a twofold relation (schesin)—that of a surety and of a head. As a surety, he justifies us and as a head, he sanctifies us. By reason of the former, his death is the meritorious cause of justification; by reason of the latter, it is the exemplary cause of sanctification (Rom. 6:4, 5; 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:21). Therefore, as Christ is given to no one for a surety to whom he is not given for a head, so no one is justified by the merit of the surety (Christ) who is not sanctified by the efficacy of Christ (the head) after his image. It is not sufficient that Christ died and lives for us, unless he also mortifies the old man in us after the likeness of his own death and vivifies the new man, so that what was done in the head is done in the members. Besides from the death (by which we are justified), not only is the Spirit acquired, but also the principal motives to sanctification are derived. These are: (a) the foulness of sin, which can be washed away by nothing else than the blood of Christ; (b) God’s hatred of sin, who spared not even his own son to avenge it; (c) the unspeakable love of Christ, whose love ought so to constrain us that we should no longer live to ourselves but to him who died for us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15); (d) the right which Christ acquired in us by dying (Rom. 14:8, 9; 1 Cor. 6:20), which demands that we should glorify him with our body and spirit. Finally, this is the principal end of Christ’s death—that being dead to sin we should live unto righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24; Tit. 2:14).

3. On the part of the Spirit.

XVIII. (3) The Spirit, who is given to us, has a twofold name: the “Spirit of adoption” who seals our justification; and the “Spirit of sanctification” who begins and carries it forward. Hence his operation is usually twofold: the first by consolation, when he testifies that we are the sons of God (Rom. 8:16); the other by sanctification, when he makes us cry out, Abba, Father (v. 15). On the part of God, he descends into us and confirms his promises, while on our part he makes us ascend to God to the execution of our duty.

4. On the part of faith.

XIX. The very faith by which we are justified demands this. For as it is the instrument of justification by receiving the righteousness of Christ, so it is the root and principle of sanctification, while it purges the heart and works through love (Gal. 5:6). Justification itself (which brings the remission of sins) does not carry with it the permission or license to sin (as the Epicureans hold), but ought to enkindle the desire of piety and the practice of holiness. With God, it is a propitiation that he may be feared (Ps. 130:4); speaks peace to his people that they may not turn again to folly (Ps. 85:8). Thus justification stands related to sanctification as the means to the end. And to this tends the whole economy of grace, which for no other reason has dawned upon us, unless “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly” (Tit. 2:12).

5. On the part of the sacraments.

XX. The sacraments prove the same thing, being administered to seal the benefits of Christ. Baptism, which is administered for the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), is also a “laver of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5). And if in the supper is exhibited to us the body of Christ broken and his blood poured out for the remission of sins (Mt. 26:28), in the same place the body and blood are exhibited as the aliment of spiritual life, which consists in sanctification (1 Cor. 10:16).

XXI. Although the justified believer falls into various sins, often so grievous that the progress of his sanctification is for a long time interrupted (nay, itself not a little weakened), it does not follow that sanctification itself is torn away from justification. For if actual sanctification is taken away, still habitual sanctification is not; nor is the seed of God ever removed, but remains always in us (1 Jn. 3:9), as we have already proved concerning the perseverance of faith. He who sins does not act in a holy manner; but still he who does not exercise the act of holiness can have the habit of holiness remaining in himself, although weakened and infirm.

XXII. It is one thing to be purged from old sins sacramentally and conditionally; another really and absolutely. They (of whom Peter speaks, 2 Pet. 1:9) were purged from sin in the former sense, but not in the latter, on account of a defect of the required condition (viz., faith). Thus they could be called neither justified nor truly sanctified. See more on this subject in a later question concerning the necessity of good works.

 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 689–693.

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